Hampster In SPAAACE(ish)

Carl Sagan once famously said that we are all made of star stuff. And that's true: the elements that make up all matter in the universe are forged in the hearts of stars, waiting until they explode, which sends them flying out into the greater space, seeding the void with the building blocks of literally everything. But in a far more literal way, we are made of not-quite-star-stuff.

Briefly and vaguely, here's how it happens. All stars start off as clouds of gas. Nebula are both the end and the beginning of stars. This gas will sit in a sterile stellar nursery until something (usually the addition of unexpected mass) precipitates a gravitational collapse, causing the cloud to coalesce into a dense core. This will steadily feed off the surrounding food supply of elements, gaining mass and gravity until the pressure in the core becomes great enough to cause fusion to occur. Then boom, you've got a star.

But there are left overs. Materials that the star was feeding on, but didn't use before it ignited. These accretion discs spiral around, falling into the star like a slightly clogged sink slowly draining. But as these flat discs of dust spiral around, the particulate rub together, generating static electricity. And as anyone who has ever dried socks knows, electrostatic energy causes things to attract. So, the dust will clump together in larger and larger chunks until, like the stars themselves, they form enough mass to exert a gravitational force on the surrounding materials. This gravity well brings everything together, until a planet is formed, or asteroid, or other smaller body. Might be a solid rock, might be a ball of gas. Point is, that unused materials form solar systems, and thanks to the good works being done by the Kepler project, we're learning that this process is far more common and produces more results then we ever expected.

And while all of that is fascinating, somehow it isn't as fun as explaining it with a weightless Richard Hammond and coffee grounds.

Via the Bad Astronomer.
Share on Google Plus

About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


Post a Comment